Holiday Buyer's Guide 2005

SMC's EZ Switch

SMC Networks offers a nice, affordable standalone 8-port desktop switch that's well-suited for high-speed home (or small office) networking. It's one of a new breed of affordable Gigabit-capable network devices that can empower average consumers to extract more performance than ever from their local networks. This is performance on the order of 2000 Mbps per port (full-duplex), so it's nothing to sneeze at.

The 8508T offers pure performance in a lightweight, compact design. It can be installed in both desktop and rackmount environments (mounting hardware is included).

Since the 8508T auto-senses on all eight of its RJ-45 ports, configuration happens automatically without user intervention. The 8508T can also handle jumbo frames up to 9 kB in size when used with an equally capable adapter. Built-in wiring crossovers on all ports provide MDI/MDI-X interface auto-detection, to enable seamless interconnections with workstations or switches using straight-through cabling; this eliminates the need to hunt down special crossover cables.

The 8508T also features half- and full-duplex speeds, along with flow control to prevent packet loss under heavy load. This complements the device's store-and-forward capabilities, which help to ensure error-free transmission at high traffic rates. As the switch becomes fully saturated, store-and-forward control mechanisms buffer and calculate a checksum for each packet, ensuring that the content is valid before firing it off to its destination; invalid packets are summarily dropped.

Like the Netgear GS108, the SMC 8508T is fully plug-and-play compatible making it easy to use, install, and maintain. Unlike the GS108, however, the 8508T supports IEEE 802.3x flow control, to help keep network traffic congestion under control.

The 8508T's slim dimensions make it easy to transport to LAN parties or conventions, but it also works well at the home and in the (small) office. At an MSRP of $99.99 directly from the vendor Web site , the unit's price point and feature set make it a perfect gift idea for tech-savvy recipients. Those likely to run multiple large-scale data transfers simultaneously on their networks may also prefer this model to the Netgear GS108 because its flow control mechanisms will do a better job of handling the heavy traffic that such activity is sure to cause.

Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a long-time IT writer, researcher and consultant, and occasional contributor to Tom’s Hardware. A Windows Insider MVP since 2018, he likes to cover OS-related driver, troubleshooting, and security topics.